PITTSBURGH (AP) – Sam Young dominated one of this season’s biggest games with 31 points and No. 3 Pittsburgh likely secured one of the top seeds in the NCAA tournament, opening up a 14-point lead early in the second half before holding off top-ranked Connecticut 70-60 on Saturday.

Pitt (28-3, 15-3 Big East) had never beaten a No. 1-ranked team in school history, only to accomplish it twice in less than a month – both times against Connecticut (27-3, 15-3), which still hasn’t figured out how to slow down Young. Pitt becomes the seventh school to beat a top-ranked team twice in a season, the last North Carolina over Duke in 1998.

The Panthers had to wait for the outcome of Saturday night’s game between No. 6 Louisville and West Virginia to see if they would win a share of the Big East regular season title. If West Virginia won, Pittsburgh and Louisville would be tied with the Panthers getting the No. 1 seed in next week’s tournament. A Louisville win and Pitt would get the tiebreaker over UConn and the No. 2 seed.

Young scored 56 points in the wins over UConn, getting 25 in the 76-68 victory on Feb. 16.

Still, the Panthers did it a different way than they did in winning at UConn, when 6-foot-7 DeJuan Blair pushed around 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet for 22 points and 23 rebounds and Thabeet ended with only five points and four rebounds. This time, Blair had eight points and eight rebounds in a relatively quiet performance and Thabeet had all 14 of his points in the first half.

Young scored the two biggest baskets of the game after Connecticut went on a 12-0 run, keyed by A.J. Price’s eight points, to close within 52-50 with 8:24 remaining.

Young, a senior playing his final home game, hit a driving layup through traffic to make it 54-50, then went above the rim to put down Levance Fields’ high lob pass – a dunk that drew the loudest roar of the game from the standing-room crowd of 12,908 and seemed to take the life out of UConn’s rally.

Price responded with another 3 – he ended with 19 points – but Jermaine Dixon drove the lane after a frustrated Thabeet, who twice couldn’t score from in close, swatted the ball downcourt in an attempt to maintain UConn’s possession.

Young dunked again on Pitt’s next possession and added a free throw to finish off a three-point play created when Blair tapped the ball away in the backcourt to force a turnover, giving Pitt a 61-53 lead with 4:42 remaining.

With Thabeet not scoring inside, UConn didn’t have enough to come back in its first loss in 10 road games this season despite Jeff Adrien’s 11 points and 10 from Kemba Walker.

Pitt finished 19-0 at home, the second time since the Petersen Events Center opened in 2002 that it swept every home game. The Panthers did it in 2002-03.

Reserve Brad Wanamaker scored 13 points and Fields, playing despite a bruised lower back, added 10 despite missing 10 of 14 shots.

Pitt, which held a 48-31 rebounding edge in the first game, led 41-40 this time as Young had 10 rebounds. Thabeet had 13 and Stanley Robinson had 12.

Young was such a factor that at, one point, Blair went 18 minutes without scoring, yet Pitt still increased its lead from three points to 14 during that time.

UConn coach Jim Calhoun tried matching the 6-7 Adrien on Young at times to try to create a mismatch, but that allowed Young to use his advantage in quickness. In the second half, Young began stepping back to take jumpers, hitting 3-pointers for successive Pitt baskets to make it 48-36 after UConn had scored six consecutive points to close what had been a 14-point deficit.

Pitt hadn’t swept UConn during the season – the teams haven’t always met twice in a season – since 1996-97, when Pitt also beat the Huskies in the Big East tournament.

AP-ES-03-07-09 1433EST


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.